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The Fabric of Life

Posted by Sandra Wood on 03 July 2019

… Whenever humans come together for any reason, music is there,” writes Daniel Levitin “….weddings, funerals, graduation from college, men marching off to war, stadium sporting events, a night on the town, prayer, a romantic dinner, mothers rocking their infants to sleep and college students studying with music as a background….

He continues to note that, “….music is and was [always] part of the fabric of everyday life.” 

Last year I worked with an international group from Blackburn’s Action Factory as part of the Preston Encounters Festival choir project. The group went through a great process, gaining confidence through sharing song. At the end, they said they wanted to continue and to explore songs in their own first languages.

The opportunity came to do just that for Blackburn’s National Festival of Making. Over the last month and a half I’ve been working with what has become the Action Factory international singing group, sharing melodies, laughs, and decent amounts of tea and rice. The aim was to create a short show for the festival and to work with the richness of singing in a variety of languages.

I like the image of life having a ‘fabric’, woven of threads that hold our time together, knitting our experiences and binding us all in to a larger tapestry. I’ve often thought that song does this – reminding us of shared experiences, or introducing us to new ones. Expressing the things that we have in common, and the things that make us gloriously unique.

We particularly shared songs of everyday life – music that is relevant to lived experience. The repertoire included lullabies in Urdu and Dari and a song of love in Mandarin “The Moon Represents My Heart”.

As it happened the song in Sotho “Mangwani Mpulele” which we did had lyrics most suited to the outdoor performance at the Festival of Making:

“Aunt, open the door for me, I am getting wet with rain. Whether it is here, whether it is there, I am getting wet with rain.”

Still, a spot of rain did not dampen enthusiasm. In fact it was almost impossible to get the group off stage again from endless rounds of selfies. It was wonderful to see them taking and owning the space.

Already the project has had a life beyond the Festival of Making itself. The international singing group was invited to perform at a (belated!) Eid party hosted by the YMCA New Beginnings scheme at Blackburn Cathedral. It was a lovely afternoon of sharing song, food and company with people with roots right across the world. There’s lots in the world that seems to speak of strife right now, that pulls against humans coming together. It was heart warming to spend some time pulling in the opposite direction, binding people together with a fabric of song.


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